Graft scandal ensnares Peruvian, Colombian leaders

NEW YORK • A corruption scandal in South America has wound its way through the political establishments of two countries as Peru's Attorney-General issued an arrest warrant for a former president and Colombian prosecutors said their President's campaign might have received questionable donations.

Peruvian prosecutors on Tuesday accused former president Alejandro Toledo of accepting US$20 million (S$28.4 million) in bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in exchange for infrastructure contracts, including the rights to build a highway connecting Peru to Brazil.

The accusations could lead to Mr Toledo being detained, a twist for a man who rose to power by leading protests that toppled the government of his predecessor, Alberto Fujimori, who is now in prison.

Attorney-General Pablo Sanchez "will request the precautionary imprisonment" of Mr Toledo, said Mr Hamilton Castro, the prosecutor leading the inquiry.

Odebrecht is the focus of a widening international corruption scandal that has also embarrassed members of the administration of Mr Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former president of Brazil. Last year, the company's former chief executive Marcelo Odebrecht was sentenced to 19 years in prison on charges of corruption and money laundering.

In Colombia, prosecutors said on Tuesday that President Juan Manuel Santos' re-election campaign in 2014 might have received about US$1 million from Odebrecht, according to the Associated Press. Mr Santos did not comment.

  • US$20m
    The amount that former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo allegedly received from Brazilian firm Odebrecht in exchange for infrastructure contracts.

    US$1m
    The amount that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos' re-election campaign in 2014 allegedly received from Odebrecht.

The charges against Mr Toledo in Peru appeared to be imminent. If they are approved by a judge, Mr Toledo, 70, will be ordered to stand trial and put under house arrest, but he will not be held in prison because he is above 65 years old.

Prosecutors urged Mr Toledo, believed to be in Paris, to surrender to the authorities in Peru.

He has previously denied wrongdoing. "Say when, how and where and in what bank they've given me US$20 million," he said in a weekend radio interview.

According to prosecutors, US$11 million has been tracked to offshore accounts owned by Mr Josef Maiman, a close friend and associate of Mr Toledo.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 09, 2017, with the headline 'Graft scandal ensnares Peruvian, Colombian leaders'. Print Edition | Subscribe